Priest Accused of Sex Abuse Is Detained
The Victim Would Have Been a 12-Year-Old Girl
He was a fugitive for the last month-and-a-half. It’s being investigated whether he was involved in four other cases.
January 21, 2004
[Translated into English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
A Catholic priest was detained yesterday by the Pilar Police, accused of sexually abusing a 12 year-old girl. It is also being investigated whether the priest, who was a fugitive of the law for the last month and a half, abused four other girls.
The international order of detention against the priest, Mario Napoleón Sasso, 45 years old, went into effect one and a half months ago. The priest was captured in a hired car at a tollbooth on the Pan American Highway in Pilar.
Sasso, who had shaved his head and beard (apparently, he had a beard for many years), did not resist capture, according to the police.
His detention came shortly after the priest returned from Paraguay, where he stayed 10 days, according to sources cited by Télam. The same sources maintained that “in light of the seriousness of the accusations, those who had given him refuge in Paraguay decided to let him go.”
After the order of detention went into effect on December 1, 2003, the priest stopped showing up at the chapel of La Lonja, in Pilar, where he had been assigned since November.
The accusations were made by a “devout laic” who worked with Sasso at the chapel. The woman appeared before the prosecutor of Pilar, Enrique Ferrari, and told him that Sasso abused a 12-year-old girl who frequented the chapel for meals.
The girl was interviewed by psychologists and, according to sources, recounted that Sasso fondled her several times, masturbated in front of her, and threatened her so that she wouldn’t tell anyone what happened.
The police reported that Sasso planned to travel to Yugoslavia, where he would have attempted to gain access to the Catholic institute, Virgen del Midjugore. Apparently, he needed to renew his passport in order to travel.
The order of detention was issued by the judge of San Isidro, Orlando Díaz. The priest is accused of first-degree sexual abuse for the “injurious nature” of the abuse and for his position as priest. The predicted punishment for those crimes can be up to 20 years in prison.
The investigation of Sasso led to the discovery of a special treatment center for religious members in Tortuguitas, called Domus Mariae, where priests with behavioral problems are interned. Sasso, who is from San Juan, had checked in to Domus Mariae in 1994 supposedly to be treated for depression. But it is now being investigated if that was the real reason that brought him there.
According to Télam, the director of Domus Mariae, Pedro Marano, said that the treatment center housed “more than 70 Latin American priests” with diverse problems, such as pedophilia, alcoholism, and homosexuality.
Because of his position as priest and for the tenor of the accusations, the Police indicated that Sasso cannot stay close to common criminals, and for that reason the Department of Investigations of San Isidro is considering the possibility that he occupy the same cell where for more than a month stayed Carlos Carrascosa, the husband of María Marta García Belsunce.